Stories and legends from history can be used to teach the cardinal virtues and inspire a life well lived for students, according to a Latin teacher writing for Crisis Magazine.
Sam Vanderplas believes that a “character education program” can be effective when students hear stories that paint images in their mind that last forever, offering them “moral possibilities beyond the realm of their own experiences.”
The cardinal virtues are temperance, the habit of tempering the passions; fortitude, the habit of engaging and persevering in noble pursuits; justice, the habit of giving to each his due; and prudence, the mother of the virtues, the habit of making practical and wise choices, according to Vanderplas.
Vanderplas advocates for the return to the cardinal virtues because they can offer “guiding beacons” to “balanced and well-lived lives.”
He pointed out that many of the great minds of western civilization reflected on the cardinal virtues, including Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Thomas Aquinas.
Offering a story to illustrate each virtue, Vanderplas demonstrates how a “life of excellence” is attainable for those who strive to balance the virtues properly. The cardinal virtues are often called the “hinge virtues” because all other virtues flow from their practice.
Prudenceis the “mother of the virtues” that, like a charioteer, harnesses the virtues together, according to Vanderplas. An example of prudence is found in the story of Cicero’s dealings with Catiline. Vanderplas explained:
Cicero, for example, the great Roman orator and senator, after learning of the plot of the ambitious and unscrupulous Catiline, a fellow senator and twice-denied consular aspirant, to lead an army against his own nation, shrewdly bided his time and gathered information through informants before acting. Because Cicero waited to gather adequate information and assess the situation, he, warned by his informants, escaped assassination when Catiline’s men came to kill him at his house. He then exposed and denounced Catiline in front of the senate and had the conspirators executed. His prudent decisions thwarted the conspiracy.
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